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Dianthus Flower Meaning and Symbolism

Dianthus Flower Meaning and Symbolism

The dianthus plant is better known by its common name as a carnation flower or pinks. But despite the nickname pinks, carnations come in many colors, including pink, red, white, yellow, and deep purple. Carnation flowers can mean love, happiness, creativity, and beauty.

About the Dianthus Flower

Dianthus flowers belong to the Caryophyllaceae family, meaning clove tree, consisting of almost 300 species. These delicate, mild-scented blooms are native to Asia Minor, Balkan Peninsula, and the Mediterranean. 

There are a few different explanations for how the dianthus flower got its name. One story says that a Greek physician Dioscorides gave the dianthus flower its name because it was a suitable treatment for “dianthos” – giddiness.

Another origin story says that dianthus flowers got their name from the Greek words Dios – god – and anthos – flower, meaning god’s flower or flower of the gods. So it can also translate to divine flower or Zeu’s flower, or fleur de Jupiter.

History and Origin

The Dianthus flower has many cultural significances. In Greek mythology, this flower’s origins link to the goddess of the hunt – Diana. The lore varies, with the most popular story being that after having a poor hunting trip, Diana encountered a shepherd playing music. 

She plucked out the shepherd’s eyes because she blamed his flute for her unsuccessful hunt. But when she calmed down and felt guilt for her actions, she noticed the blood from his eyes turned to red dianthus flowers when they hit the ground.

In Christianity, carnations came from the Virgin Mary’s tears as she watched her son – Jesus – carry his cross. 

While Dutch cultures consider carnations a commemoration of war veterans and World War II. But in France, the dianthus flower is classicly associated with funerals.

Common Names

The Dianthus flower goes by the scientific name Dianthus caryophyllus and the common name of carnations. It also goes by Sweet Williamdianthus barbatus – Sweete Williams, the China Carnation, Sweet William Pink, and Bearded Pink.  

Carnations flowers are often referred to as pinks because it’s the primary color of the dianthus flower – Dianthus Chinensis. But oddly enough, the flowers can also be red, white, or purple.

Types of Dianthus

Dianthus flowers come in various species and styles, with almost 300 species. Some of the most common types include pinks, China pinks, sweet Williams, carnations, and maiden pinks. Other popular hybrids and cultivars include: 

  • Heart Attack (D. barbatus) – reddish-black flowers
  • Brilliant Star – white flowers with a maroon center
  • Frosty Fire (Dianthus x allwoodii) – hybrid cross of D. caryophylus and D. plumerias (cottage pink)
  • Pinocchio Mix (D. barbatus) – dwarf 
  • Bewitched – pink with a burgundy center
  • Amazon Neon Duo – tender perennial with purplish-white flowers


Dianthus plants grow as bushes 1′ to 3′ tall, with flat-topped terminal clusters of small, vibrant flowers in a single solid color, bi or tri-colored. Some flowers are a slightly spicy fragrance, similar to cloves. 

The leaves have a lance shape with a green-gray tint and form a mounded or clumped form. At the same time, the flowers feature five petals with fringed, serrated, or jagged edges. 

Dianthus Flower Care

Dianthus flowers are low maintenance, growing best in well-draining soil in a sunny spot. Your plants need a heavy dose of compost and deep waterings less frequently to avoid stem rot. But be sure you keep the mulch off and around the stems.

When leaves start to yellow, it’s typically a sign of poor drainage. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage your plants to continue blooming year-round. 

Uses Throughout History

The dainty beauty of carnation flowers has made them popular for wedding bouquets for the last few centuries, symbolizing a marriage filled with happiness and joy. 

The Dianthus also has medicinal uses, including treating urinary infections in traditional Chinese medicine. Western medicine uses the plant for digestive and urinary systems and its anthelmintic, diuretic, antibacterial, and hemostatic properties.

You can also eat carnations due to their mild flavor. The colorful blooms are popular for use as a garnish on salads, cakes, cooked meals, drinks, and sweets. 

Dianthus Flower Symbolism

What do carnations symbolize? There are multiple carnation flowers, meaning much carnation symbolism changing by color. For example, the Dianthus is the birth flower for January and is the appropriate flower for celebrating a first wedding anniversary. 

Etymological Meaning

In Greek, the name Dianthus translates to god’s flower. In Japan, the carnation is known as the Hana-fuki, meaning “to blow away” flowers. So if you pick a carnation flower and inhale its heady fragrance, your troubles would blow away in the wind.

The nickname pink is a double-edged origin story. While it refers to the fact that the first dianthus flowers were pink, it is also from the Latin word carnis, meaning flesh. Another meaning is that the plants look like they’ve been cut with pinking shears.

And the nickname carnation comes from the Greek word coronation, referring to the flower’s use in ceremonial crowns in Greece. 

Mother’s Day

Carnations in pink are symbolic of a mother’s undying love. So, they are often used as a flower gift for Mother’s Day. 


Many cultures make associations between the Dianthus and love. For example, in the Victorian language of flowers, carnations sent the unspoken message of “Will you smile?” This meaning gives the plant associations of passion, affection, admiration, and love.

Purity and Virtue

Carnations in white can also symbolize innocence, virtue, and purity. 

Beauty and Femininity

The ruffled ends, vibrant colors, and dainty soft petals give dianthus flowers the meaning of beauty and femininity, particularly in pink. 

Dianthus Flower Color Meaning

The different types of dianthus colors can affect the carnation meaning. Carnations come in a range of colors. But their ability to absorb dye allows you to find dianthus flowers in nearly every color. For this reason, there are various carnation colors meaning. 


Purple carnations represent power and dignity. And then purple Dianthus is also symbolic of a person’s impulsiveness and unpredictability.


Red carnations often symbolize passion. And another red carnation flower is admiration when the red is a lighter shade. A darker red carnation meaning is love and affection.


White carnations are vulnerable to alterations, easily absorbing dye so you can change the color. You can get white carnation flowers in bright neon colors, including green Dianthus. 

One white carnation meaning represents purity. And yet another white dianthus meaning is good luck. 


Pink Dianthus are symbolic of feminity and beauty. But pink carnation flowers also represent innocence. Another pink carnation meaning is gratitude. 


Yellow carnations can have negative associations. For example, one yellow carnation meaning is rejection. And another yellow carnations meaning is a disappointment.

Dianthus Flower FAQ

Discover more interesting information about the Dianthus flower with these frequently asked questions. 

When Should You Give Someone a Dianthus Flower?

A dianthus flower was given to someone dying or ill to represent life’s fragility in ancient Greece. You can also use carnations in white and yellow to remember after a death. 

And they’re suitable for a gift on birthdays, symbolizing purity, innocence, youth, and joyfulness. Finally, it’s one of the most popular choices for Mother’s Day, showing appreciation and love or offering congratulations on graduation or other success. 

Are Dianthus Flowers Fragrant?

Many species of Dianthus have a sweet, spicy fragrance that’s similar to the scent of a clove.

What Does a Dianthus Flower Tattoo Represent?

A carnation flower is commonly chosen for a tattoo, mainly representing love, from the vibrant colors to the delicate petals. It can express a deep love you feel for someone, or it could refer to a love that’s been lost.

And because it’s also symbolic of innocence, joy, femininity, and youthfulness. Females most often choose dianthus flower tattoos. 

Are Dianthus Flowers Poisonous?

Carnations are edible and non-toxic to people. However, the leaves have a low toxicity rate that can cause irritated and inflamed skin in some people with sensitivities. 

Are Dianthus Plants Perrenials or Annuals?

There is dianthus biennial, perennial, or annual, depending on the species. 

Dianthus Flower Meaning: Final Thoughts

Known as Zeus’s flower due to the translation of god’s flower, the Dianthus plant comes in many vibrant colors that give the ruffled, ripped petals a unique look. Dianthus flower meanings include love, beauty, femininity, virtue, and purity. These flowers are popular gifts for graduations and are the official flower of Mother’s Day.